Briefing - 05 December 2017

Property and Succession - who is entitled to your assets on your death?

In accordance with the laws of England and Wales, succession to a person's immovable property (which broadly means land and buildings) is governed by the law of the country where it is located. Succession to a person's movable property (everything else) is governed by the law of the country where they are domiciled when they die.


Charlotte Elliott

Associate Director, Wills & Probate

If you have connections with more than one country, you need to know which law in which country will regulate how your estate is administered when you die. Each country has its own rules to decide which law applies to your assets. Some countries, for example, have forced heirship rules so that certain shares of your assets must be distributed to certain family members. The interaction of these rules is often complicated, making it uncertain who will inherit your estate.

An EU Regulation was put in place (known as Brussels IV which commenced in 2015) with the aim of reducing the uncertainty and conflict and allowing a person in certain circumstances to designate the law of a particular country to apply to their estate when they die.  

The EU Regulation does not apply to assets in the UK, but it does affect the way the laws in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland interact with the rules of the EU member states where the regulation does apply. It can therefore affect the way that your assets will pass on your death if those assets are outside the UK.

Asset protection


By way of an example; Helen and Tom are domiciled and resident in England and own a house in England and France. Helen and Tom do not have wills. When they die, English law will dictate how the house in England is to be dealt with because that property is located in England. French law applies to the property in France because the property is located in France. It would be likely that France would apply forced heirship rules.  If however Helen and Tom had made wills and made a choice of law of English law, then France would apply English law to the property and they can leave their French property to whoever they want.

In light of this example and Brussels IV, we strongly recommend that you review your will (or make a will if you don't have one) to ensure that your estate will pass to the people you choose as without a will or the appropriate wording in your will your assets may not get allocated as you wish or as you intended.

It is important to make sure your will deals with your assets in each country concerned. Hawksford can assist you with drafting your wills and your estate planning so that it is tailored to your specific circumstances, taking into account your residence, domicile and nationality.

This briefing is intended to provide a general overview of the matters to which it relates. It is not intended as advice and should not be relied on as such. Please seek professional advice advice appropriate to your particular circumstances or requirements.

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Charlotte Elliott
Charlotte Elliott

Associate Director, Wills & Probate

Charlotte adds significant value to Hawksford's Wills & Probate team with her vast experience especially with contentious Wills and estate matters.

T: +44 1534 740258 |
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